Murphy’s Law Won Battles, Not War: Philippines airport secrets

“If it’s common sense and efficient… it ain’t happenin’ in the Philippines…” said I in a recent email. This isn’t entirely true, but it IS the rule.

Granted, the story I’m about to tell you involves some poor choices on my part. But this entry isn’t about my shortcomings, now is it?

My camera-hunting partner-in-crime...

So. Domestic flight departs 3:50 p.m. I plan to be in a taxi around 1 p.m. to head to the airport. As A and I stroll around Greenhills, the rain starts to dump. Hard. This means that the people who would usually walk, ride a jeepney, or otherwise be moving on the streets all jump into the cover of a taxi.

Leaving Greenhills at just after 1 p.m., I decide to ride with A to his house, since it’s in the direction of the airport anyway. Traffic was at a standstill in many places, and we crept along for quite awhile. Back at his place, the gate guards worked on flagging me a taxi. 30 minutes later, not a single empty cab had passed by. Uh oh.

Desperately wanted one of these...

Finally, I wonder aloud if I might do better to take the Metro south — closer to the airport and possibly traffic would be flowing more smoothly there. Being as it was closing in on the two-hours-until-flight-departure mark, we all decide this is a good idea. Heading outside to get in the car, a guardian angel delivered a miracle. Some people were arriving via taxi to A’s gated community. Which meant I had my empty cab! Finally! And just an hour and fifteen minutes later than I’d hoped.

So. 2:15 p.m. and I’m finally on my way to catch my 3:50 p.m. flight. Ugh. At 2:45, after equal parts gridlock and slow crawl, I ask the taxi driver how much farther he thinks it is to the airport. “Umm… I think, one hour, ma’am. One hour.” WHAT?!!!!!! One hour!!? But my flight DEPARTS in one hour!!! Already I’m working on my Pinoy (Filipino) attitude — relax… stressing out won’t get me anywhere now. Guess this will be a costly life lesson…

Manila traffic jam... picked up off Google Images

The driver does his best, and offers to take me via the “skyway” – a toll road that is virtually gridlock free. I pay our way and try not to let useless anxiety creep into my psyche. 2:55 p.m., less than an hour to departure, and the airport terminal comes into view. Ah, but the vehicle entrance is another kilometer up the road. I consider jumping out of the cab and hopping all the barriers to the entrance doors. And then I envision a giant, just-out-of-view, uncrossable ditch between me and my prize that would guarantee I’d never make the flight. I sit tight.

3:05 — we break free of traffic and cross the 45 minute pre-flight mark at exactly the same time. 3:08, I jump out of the cab and fly toward the outside entrance doors. Which, inexplicably (okay, I’m sure there is an explanation) have their own set of security! BEFORE check-in!! NO!!! I see a hurried man rocking the Filipino style… just push your way to the front. The security guard lets him, so I try too and am accepted for preferential treatment.

Terminal 3

Once inside, the entrance to my airline’s check-in is staffed by a man who has to look at each person’s printed itinerary before allowing them through. I try the barge-in-at-the-front-of-the-line tactic (“Excuse me sir, which counter would I go to to catch a flight that leaves in thirty minutes?”) and it works! Miracle of miracles! Sorry to everyone waiting in line… I’m sure karma will get me. Don’t worry. (As an aside, I would learn from a French-Canadian couple later on that they arrived two hours before the flight and waited in line at the counter for nearly all of the two hours. It was taking ten minutes to check each group in. Finally the couple had to do the rude thing. They barged up to the front of the line where the woman said she’d call them soon and proceeded to do apparently nothing for five minutes before summoning them to check in. They got to the terminal after I did!)

Okay, so I blew the ending. Yes, unbelievably, I got checked in, through security, through the departure tax payment area, and to the terminal all before they started boarding the flight. I couldn’t believe it, and was overflowing with gratitude. Puerto Princesa, here I come! ♣


  • November 15, 2016 at 4:42 am

    Love your blog. We are heading to the Philipines for three weeks next year. Glad I read your article in case we need to do the same thing 😉

    • November 16, 2016 at 5:11 am

      Happy whenever my crazy mistakes can serve as a lesson to others. Have a great trip!

  • December 17, 2011 at 5:31 am


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